The other day, I thought about making pasta alla primavera for lunches this week. Then I thought I should use brown rice instead because it’s healthier. Then I remembered that it’s fall, not spring, so maybe I should venture in a more seasonable direction. I checked the calendar of seasonal produce I keep on the fridge and set about throwing together a concept. I’m really happy with how it came out.
And so, I present to you…
Riso all’autunno (or Autumn Rice in ‘Merican)
(based upon the Joy of Cooking recipe I posted about here)
1 small winter squash (I used acorn)
3 medium beets, greens removed
½ pound Brussels sprouts, chopped
½ cup red lentils
3 cloves plus 2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups fresh mushrooms, coarsely chopped (mine were maitakes from Mushroom Planet, but your favorite variety will work)
1 small shallot, minced
1 cup long-grain brown rice
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Pierce the skin of the winter squash six times with a knife or fork. I call this stabbing because it’s way more fun. Wrap the three beets in aluminum foil. Woo hoo, can you feel my heart beet?
Place the squash and beets on an edged baking sheet and stick them in the over for about 15 minutes. You want them slightly cooked but not done.
Remove them and turn off the oven. Meanwhile, grease, spray, or line a 9”x13” baking dish. When the squash is cool enough to handle, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds:
Now chop up just the flesh and toss it in the baking dish. Chop up those beets, while you’re at it, and throw them in, too. Be prepared, however, ‘cause these things bleed:
I promise you won’t stay magenta forever, though. Clean the Brussels sprouts and cut them to the size you like. I bought small-ish ones and chopped them in quarters because I didn’t want huge chunks. Rinse the lentils and pick over them, if necessary. Now toss the veggies and the legumes in with the squash and beets. Top with three cloves of minced garlic:
At this time, preheat the oven to 350° F. Heat a large sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat, and drizzle in the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms, remaining two cloves of garlic, and the shallot. Sauté, stirring often, until the mushrooms are softened but the garlic isn’t burned, about five minutes.
Now add the rice and stir until it’s coated. Quickly add the vegetable broth. If all four cups of broth won’t fit, just add two for now and pour the other two into the baking dish.
Let the broth reach a boil, then pour the mixture into the baking dish. Stir everything around so it’s more or less evenly distributed.
Yours will be brothier. I didn’t use enough at the out-set. Stick it in the oven to bake for 50 minutes to an hour. At this point, stir it around and see if the rice is softened. If it isn’t and there’s no more broth, add a little more (about ½ a cup at a time) and put back in the oven for 15 minutes. It’s done when the rice is cooked and the beets and soft enough to eat.
Serves six (or just me six times).
I’m super-duper happy with how this turned out. Let me first say, however, that this is not a quick-and-easy meal. There is precooking and quite a bit of chopping, things I don’t normally do. However, the end result is very rich, hearty, and earthy*, and I think the deliciousness is worth the extra work. I top my servings with some black pepper, but otherwise the veggies speak very well for themselves. I love how bright and autumnal-colored the beets turn the dish. The squash and sprouts add a nice variation in taste and texture. I slightly overcooked my acorn squash, but I don’t really mind the mushiness. The mushrooms aren’t very obtrusive. I only used about 1 ½ cups, so I recommended two in the recipe because I love ‘em. Also, my rice came out somewhat al dente, which I like, but if you don’t, you could boil the rice a little on its own before adding it. The lentils are barely noticeable, but they do ramp up the nutrition of the dish.
I enjoyed a serving of my Riso all’autunno with a lovely salad today. I will post that recipe tomorrow.
*When I say “earthy,” I do, indeed, mean it tastes like dirt, in a good way. Beets, as a matter of fact, taste like dirt. Ain’t no shame in it, but I want to make it clear that I know that. If you don’t tend to like roasted beets, then you won’t like them here since the flavor is pretty pronounced. Sub in something else.
If you make the dish, I’d love to hear about it! This is the first baked rice dish I’ve ever created, and I have to admit I greatly enjoyed it. Oh, and expect to see the keptlovinglyforlaters a few more times; four servings still remain.